Press Release

Senator Padilla, Local & Environmental Leaders, Announce Legislation to Collect Fee from Multinational Corporations Responsible for Polluting Tijuana River & Block a New Landfill in that Watershed

SACRAMENTO – Today, Senator Steve Padilla (D-San Diego), joined by community leaders, labor leaders, and environmental advocates, held a press conference announcing a new package of environmental justice legislation addressing cross border pollution from trash and human waste (Senate Bill 1178) as well as halting development of a landfill that would only cause further harm to the impacted communities (Senate Bill 1208).

For generations, billions of gallons of contamination, pollution, and wastewater, stemming from failing infrastructure, have ravaged California’s southern coastline. San Diegans are suffering from the health, economic, and environmental impacts of these continued transboundary flows.

According to a study conducted by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, coastal water pollution transfers to the atmosphere in sea spray aerosol, which can reach people beyond just beachgoers, surfers, and swimmers increasing the risk of exposure and illness to a greater area of coastal communities.

In December, Senator Padilla, chair of the Senate Select Committee on California-Mexico Cooperation and Dialogue, held a hearing to listen to federal officials, experts, local elected representatives, and the public about the efforts to address cross-border pollution. Following the testimony from the hearing and consultation with legal scholars, Senator Padilla has introduced two pieces of legislation to help mitigate the pollution.

 “Our communities have had enough of companies polluting at will and escaping the consequences,” said Senator Padilla. “If you’re going to do business in California, you’re going to answer to the public when you pollute and poison our water.”

SB 1178 would require large corporations of 2,500 or more employees doing business in California to publicly disclose their waste water discharges that can result in contamination of California watersheds.  The measure then directs the State Water Resources Board Control Board (SWRCB) to create the “California Water Quality and Public Health Impact Surcharge” which shall quantify the costs of mitigating that contamination.  The company can opt to remedy the containment itself or pay a fee to the State to do it on their behalf.  The fee will be assessed in coordination with the Franchise Tax Board and added as a surcharge to their tax bill. Funds from this new surcharge will be dedicated exclusively to mitigating the impact of those toxic discharges.

SB 1208 would prohibit a regional water board from issuing a waste discharge permit for a new landfill that is used for the disposal of nonhazardous solid waste if the land is located within the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve or within an area that is tributary to the Tijuana River. The bill would also expand the definition of “landfill used for the disposal of nonhazardous solid waste” to also include a disposal site regulated by a regional water board as a Class II landfill.

Senator Padilla was joined by community and environmental leaders at the event.

“It’s time to hold corporations accountable for polluting our coastal communities – that’s why I’m a strong supporter of SB 1178,” said Chairwoman Nora Vargas of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. “As we work to uplift our binational region, this legislation will put an end to releasing sewage flows that contaminate our water and emissions that create unmitigated air pollution for the people and families who live and work here.”

"San Diego Coastkeeper fully supports Senator Padilla's proposed legislation, which would require large California companies to foot the bill for discharges of polluted wastewater from their facilities that harm our environment and threaten public health," said Phillip Musegaas, Executive Director of Coastkeeper. "In our border region, US companies operating in Mexico currently send wastewater laden with industrial chemicals into California with impunity, contributing to the chronic degradation of the Tijuana River estuary and the contamination of coastal waters from Tijuana to Coronado.  This has to stop, and this legislation is a strong first step to hold such companies accountable for their pollution."

“At Climate Action Campaign, we are dedicated to creating a healthy, resilient, and zero carbon future through effective, equitable, and community-centered policy,” said Ali Mariko Dressel, Climate Justice Policy Coordinator with Climate Action Campaign. “Senator Padilla's leadership and legislation are critical steps towards advancing the policies that we need to address the source of pollution, hold corporations accountable, and ensure that our Communities of Color within our Southern San Diego binational region do not continue to be disproportionately impacted by a legacy of environmental injustice.

“For many years, US-owned companies operating in Mexico have contributed to the toxic waste flowing in the Tijuana River Watershed with little oversight,” said Sarah Davidson, Clean Border Water Now Manager, Surfrider Foundation. “This waste causes widespread water and air quality impairments that are making people sick, destroying ecosystems, limiting coastal access, and crippling economies.  Stronger regulations are needed on both sides of the border to address this serious public health and environmental justice emergency.  We are glad to see legislation introduced to hold polluting companies accountable."

SB 1178 and SB 1208 will be heard in the Senate in the coming year.


Steve Padilla represents the 18th Senate District, which includes the communities of Chula Vista, the Coachella Valley, Imperial Beach, the Imperial Valley, National City, and San Diego. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2022, Senator Padilla was the first person of color ever elected to city office in Chula Vista, the first Latino Mayor, and the first openly LGBT person to serve or be elected to city office. Website of Senator Steve Padilla: